Last summer we rented a pontoon boat.
We were visiting my home state and decided that spending the day on one of the 10,000 lakes, taking in the fresh air and sun, was the most Minnesota way to spend our time.
Two of my best friends from college and their families met us at the dock with coolers filled with sandwiches, chips, sliced watermelon and Twizzlers. We buckled the kids into their life jackets and pontooned away searching for the best coves to drop anchor and swim around. It was a perfect day… except for one thing.
I felt disgusting.
For months I had been locked away in my apartment trying to homeschool my two kids while keeping the business I spent years building from collapsing out from under me. My spin studio had, obviously, been shut down and running was getting old. Pizza shops were the first ones to reopen for delivery and we took advantage any time we felt our bank account allowed. We had tubes of Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough in our fridge, which we ate with a spoon as a way to pass monotonous evenings at home. And then there was the alcohol.
When it was happening, I dismissed the debauchery by telling myself the story that we were surviving a pandemic—a (hopefully) once-in-a-century situation. It was a story that both gave me permission and quieted my conscience should it ever whisper that maybe I should start making better choices.
And then there I was, sitting on a boat faced with the sum of my choices. It all added up to a feeling of utter disgust. Yes, my swimsuit felt uncomfortable. Even my coverup felt tight, but the discomfort went beyond the extra weight I might have been carrying. The stories I’d been telling myself hadn’t only allowed me to eat and be merry with no consideration of the health consequences; the stories also took a mental toll. One by one, they eroded my trust in myself. They taught me that when things get tough—really tough—I don’t get tougher… I give up.
Our day on the boat was perfect except for the way I felt about myself. That feeling eventually became a story and tool for creating change.
When we eventually booked the same boat with the same friends for a year later—why not make it an annual tradition?—I decided I wanted to be a different person the second time around. On the days when I opened the fridge and there was “nothing to eat,” I told myself the Boat Day story and resisted the urge to order pizza from the nearest shop. When I felt the urge to take a bite off the tube of cookie dough or drink an extra glass of champagne, I told myself the Boat Day story and opted for an organic fruit popsicle. When I didn’t feel like moving my body because the lingering stress of uncertain times made me too tired to move, I told myself the Boat Day story to remind myself that I didn’t want to be weighted by extra pounds or by the heavy feeling that comes with letting yourself down.
All it took was telling myself the Boat Day story and suddenly the healthy choices seemed easier to make and healthy actions seemed easier to take.
One year later, on an overcast July afternoon, we stepped onto the same pontoon boat we had rented one year earlier. The kids were all taller and noticeably older (which was strange because we swore the grown-ups hadn’t aged a minute). We spent the day on the water, soaking up the sun and the time together. And while I’m not exactly sure how much I weighed or how many pounds I’d lost, if any, I am quite certain the boat moved a little faster across the water without my old stories weighing me down.
Every day we have a choice of what stories we tell ourselves. I hope your stories lead to more love and respect for the person you are and pave a path for the person you want to become.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2021 Issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo Credit: taw4/shutterstock.com